Credit cards calling a tune of a different kind
Banks are getting tougher to please. Apparently on top of your ability to remain demonstrably solvent, Standard Chartered is now interested in your ability to belt out a good tune before giving you a credit card.
A colleague recently responded to a Standard Chartered promotion offering cards with no charges.
Being of reasonably sound mind and character, he produced the usual forms of identity, including Hong Kong ID card, proof of employment, dog's middle name etc.
On top of that, he also had to produce proof of membership of one of a range of recreational associations.
Among the choices were a fitness club, an e-mail account or a karaoke club.
Apparently it's no longer good enough to sing for your supper; you must also sing for your credit too.
For those flying the mainland's friendly skies comes this word of caution: Bottom lines are more important than your bottoms.
Sichuan-based carrier China Southwest Chongqing Airlines has seen fit to install additional seating adjacent to the mid-section emergency exits of its Boeing 737-300s.
The airline operates six such aircraft, all leased from International Lease Finance Corp, a Los Angeles based subsidiary of American International Group.
According to personnel aboard one of the aircraft flying between Chongqing, Kunming and Guangzhou, the emergency exit seats have been in place for years.
'We tell the airline managers this is very unsafe, but they just don't listen to us,' one said.
Boeing said all aircraft leaving its plant in Seattle are compliant with Federal Aviation Administration conditions for aircraft on US domestic routes.
An official at the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the mainland's aviation regulator, said that while airlines were responsible for guaranteeing the safety of passengers and eliminating potential threats to their well-being, mainland aviation law contained no specific regulation against placing obstacles - including seats - in front of emergency exits.
Such regulations should be part of the internal operation regulations of the airline company itself, the official said.
The airline said it would look into the situation at once, but offered no comment.
A pair of Australian businessmen have come up with an enterprising way of dealing with one of the country's greatest pests: Sell them to the Chinese.
Associated Press reports the pair plan to sell the poison sacs in cane toads for use in traditional herbal medicine.
Dried toad skin and potions made from toad venom have been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine and are still dispensed to treat congestive heart failure.
If their scheme takes off, it could set the ball rolling for one of the most unlikely multi-million dollar industries in a long time.
They will also have succeeded where many have failed to deal with the toads which have become a menace since they were introduced to northern Queensland 64 years ago to wipe out cane beetles.
Alan Day and John Ratcliffe have been paying residents of Machans Bay, north of Cairns to trap the toads and the first shipment of venom will be leaving for the mainland later this month.
Venture partner and a practitioner in traditional Chinese medicine, Mr Ratcliffe said plans were also in place to produce other toad by-products, including chicken and fish pellets and fertilizer.
No doubt bottles of the stuff will be leaping off the shelves of local apothecaries in no time.
Speaking of succeeding where others have failed, it has been a week US and Nato military commanders would rather forget.
Not content with maintaining its highly criticised Serbian air strikes using live ammunition, the US found a new way to win friends and influence people last week by accidentally bombarding a Japanese town with a sandbag during a training exercise.
The bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, of course took Nato into a whole new stratosphere of incompetence and the world now bites its nails as it waits to see how Beijing deals with it.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Lai See has a solution; a chance for one of Asia's most accomplished diplomats to show real international leadership in solving an increasingly grave situation.
Last week news reports highlighted one of the most visible signs of thawing relations between old foes Japan and South Korea was the fact that everyone's favourite non-speaking cat was now being sold in 12 stores in Seoul.
Yes, Hello Kitty is now a peace-broker.
With that in mind it seems a perfectly sound idea to send her into the Balkans and let her take on President Milosevic.
After all, she couldn't do any worse than General Wesley Clark.